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Acta Biochim Pol. 2005;52(2):381-95. Epub 2005 May 31.

Endoplasmic reticulum quality control and apoptosis.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


The ER is one of the most important folding compartments within the cell, as well as an intracellular Ca(2+) storage organelle and it contains a number of Ca(2+) regulated molecular chaperones responsible for the proper folding of glycosylated as well as non-glycosylated proteins. The luminal environment of the ER contains Ca(2+) which is involved in regulating chaperones such as calnexin and calreticulin, as well as apoptotic proteins caspase-12 and Bap31, which may play an important role in determining cellular sensitivity to ER stress and apoptosis. The ER quality control system consists of several molecular chaperones, including calnexin, that assist in properly folding proteins and transporting them through the ER as well as sensing misfolded proteins, attempting to refold them and if this is not possible, targeting them for degradation. Accumulation of misfolded protein in the ER leads to activation of genes responsible for the expression of ER chaperones. The UPR mechanism involves transcriptional activation of chaperones by the membrane-localized transcription factor ATF6, in conjunction with the ER membrane kinase IRE1, as well as translational repression of protein synthesis by another ER membrane kinase PERK. When accumulation of misfolded protein becomes toxic, apoptosis is triggered, potentially with IRE1 involved in signaling via caspase-12. Both the extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways appear to culminate in the activation of caspases and this results in the recruitment of mitochondria in an essential amplifying manner. Bap31 may direct pro-apoptotic crosstalk between the ER and the mitochondria via Ca(2+) in conjunction with caspase-12 and calnexin. Accordingly, ER stress and the resultant Ca(2+) release must be very carefully regulated because of their effects in virtually all areas of cell function.

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